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Call of duty

Following the global reorganization of Publicis Groupe into four ‘solution hubs’ – Publicis.Communications, Publicis Media, Publicis Sapient and Publicis Healthcare – the chief executive officer of Leo Burnett, Raja Trad, has stepped up to head the MENA operations of Publicis Communications. The three brand agencies under Trad’s leadership are Leo Burnett, Publicis Middle East and Saatchi & Saatchi.

We caught up with the man to figure out what this move means for the group and the agencies.

Tell us about the ‘Power of One’ concept…

Maurice Lévy introduced the concept prior to the announcement of the four units. It means that everything starts and ends with the client business. It is to understand what our clients’ expectations are from a communications group like Publicis.

It is not purely about communications or creative anymore, but about being able to contribute to business transformation. Clients are asking us to be interdependent, rather than just integrated. Therefore, the whole concept and philosophy behind this [restructure] is that we need to reorganize ourselves to be at our clients’ business service.

What are your plans for each of the agencies?

Firstly, nothing is going to change in terms of the agencies. These three agencies have their own image, culture and personality, and I’m going to protect this. It doesn’t mean, in any shape or form, that Publicis, Leo Burnett and Saatchi & Saatchi are going to become one. We will, however, streamline things. So, all back-office services will be shared. We will be able to have a linear and better operation for services, such as training, people and culture, which are common to all of the agencies.

We will have one PR offering, which is MSL. That will be at the service of the three agencies’ clients, who require PR support as part of our total communications solutions. Arc, which is the experiential and retail marketing hub, will also be at the service of the three agencies. And then there’s Flip – powered by Sapient – which is also there in order to support these agencies. And, now, there’s also Sapient Inside.

Tell us more about Sapient Inside…

Sapient Inside’s purpose is to put the power of technology and innovation at the service of the brand agencies. There will be teams injected and placed in each agency to combine technology and innovation, along with strategic thinking and creativity. This is our proprietary technology and it gives us the ability to plug into the global Sapient platform and business transformation services.

What are the other services or products that the brand agencies will have access to?

We’re introducing a state-of-the-art production facility called Prodigious. It will be at the service of all brand agencies for everything under production, whether it is TV, content or print production. We will have two physical centers complementing each other, in Dubai and Beirut. We already have a digital production facility in India, which has 80 talents taking care of digital production.

We will also introduce the Publicis Innovation Hub – known as Drugstore in others markets – in October in Dubai. This already exists in other hubs, such as London and Johannesburg. It’s an innovation facility that fosters relationships between large companies and start-ups for mutual benefit.

Large companies have scale and expertise, but need step-up change innovation. Start-ups have step-up change innovation but need scale and expertise. So, if a client of ours has a special business need and we know of a start-up that has the innovation and solution, we will be the link and the mediator between the two.

What are the challenges you foresee in this role?

The whole region is a challenge. The challenge is to deliver against the objectives we have. Unless something happens that will stop us, we’re going to do it without hesitation. We need to be business partners before being purely communication partners and that’s why we’re doing all this. If we shy away, it means it’s the beginning of the end. We’ve had client relationships for more than 25 years… This will not happen if you don’t keep on renewing and challenging yourself and bringing more competencies into the scene.

Also, let’s not kid ourselves. Considering the environment we’re living in, it’s easy to get complacent. We’ve had wars before and we were able to survive, keep walking and keep delivering. So, bravery is the name of the game. Without bravery and determination, it won’t happen.

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